The Court of Appeal will next week hear the appeal relating to the claims brought by over 200 judges for unlawful age, race discrimination and equal pay against the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in relation to changes made to their pension entitlements.
Leigh Day is representing 226 judges in their case which was heard by the Employment Tribunal in November 2016. The Tribunal ruled in January 2017 that the MoJ and the Lord Chancellor had discriminated against younger judges by requiring them to leave the Judicial Pension Scheme in April 2015 whilst allowing older judges to remain in that scheme, and that this discrimination could not be justified.
The government appealed the ruling but their appeal was dismissed by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in January 2018.
“Despite the stark negative impact of these changes upon judicial diversity and the reported desperately low morale in the Judiciary, the government continues to fight against the Employment Tribunal's ruling in this case, upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which found that its actions in relation to changes that it made to judicial pensions were discriminatory.
“These changes not only affect younger judges but also have a disproportionate impact on female and BAME judges who are more likely to be in the younger age group. Many judges had planned for their retirement based on membership of the old pension scheme, and now find themselves having the rug pulled out from under them .
“Our clients hope that the Court of Appeal will right the wrongs of the former Lord Chancellor by upholding the Employment Tribunal's decision.”
Following the report of Lord Hutton in 2011 into ways of reducing the costs of public sector pensions, the Government sought to make changes across the public sector including to the pensions of police, firefighters, teachers, prison officers and others.
For most public sector groups, changes to pension were made according to age - younger members of schemes were forced to leave the scheme they were in and offered membership of less valuable schemes whilst older scheme members were allowed to remain in the original scheme.
Changes were made to judicial pensions applying this distinction. As a result, a legal challenge was launched by younger judges across a range of jurisdictions to pursue claims against the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice for direct age discrimination. In addition, because there are significantly higher numbers of female and black and minority ethnic judges in this younger group, claims for indirect race and sex discrimination/equal pay were also pursued.
The case could have ramifications for other public sector groups, such as police officers, teachers, firefighters and prison officers, who have been subjected to similar negative changes to their pensions.
The Court of Appeal decision is expected to be reserved until the new year.